My last vivid memory of Fabio Cannavaro was during the final of the World Cup 2010, right before the kick-off between Spain and Netherlands. There he was, beaming in a smart suit as he proudly paraded the trophy that he hoisted four years earlier as captain of the Italian national team.
(Well, it was either that or the Dolce & Gabbana underwear ads—can’t blame a girl for that. That’s the stuff of dreamboats.)
Cut to one cloudy August afternoon in Makati Shangri-La Hotel. While James Younghusband was effusively praising the 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year and Serie A Footballer of the Year for being “a great guy”, bringing his experience and professionalism to Team James, there was someone heartily laughing behind my back.
I turned around to see it was none other than Fabio Cannavaro himself. In the flesh. He smiled in my direction. I must be dreaming.
Cannavaro was in Manila with former Chelsea and England midfielder Dennis Wise for the second instalment of the Clear Dream Match, the now-annual event that pits brothers James and Phil Younghusband against each other in a display of skill, strategy, tactics, and yes, even good looks.
Whoever named the event Clear Dream Match got it right this year. It’s a dream come true for the Younghusbands to be sharing the pitch with a childhood hero and a World Cup champion. It’s a dream come true for everyone involved to be raising the profile the sport among Filipino fans in such a grand fashion.
“Me and Phil, we came here with a dream of making football more popular here, to give more opportunities to the Filipino, especially to the young kids, because we see so much potential here,” shares James.
“This is a testament to how much football has grown in the last few years,” adds Phil, adding that the opportunity to play with such legends do not come often and expressing his excitement to be playing alongside and managing them.
Both brothers shared their strategy in choosing their respective line-ups. After last year’s 5-1 thrashing, James acknowledged the need to shore up his defensive backline, opting prioritize solid defenders in his picks. Phil, meanwhile, prioritized versatility and adaptability in his picks, forming a line-up that would be able to accommodate either football legend playing on his team.
Cannavaro and Wise, for their part, are upping the competitive and entertainment factors.
“We’re here to enjoy and here to win,” Wise crisply said, boldly predicting that Team Phil will win 6-1.
“We want to win,” a soft-spoken Cannavaro grinned when asked what his expectations would be.
This year’s Clear Dream Match will also be a dream of sorts for the less privileged, with 50% of the proceeds going to Typhoon Maring victims and other 50% to the Tuloy sa Don Bosco Foundation.
As for me, I suppose it’s just a dream come true to be seeing a football hero whose matches I lost sleep over and whose underwear ads I’ve committed to memory.
I’ve always moaned I live in the wrong country when it comes to football, but now, I’m just thankful there are brands like Clear and people like the Younghusbands who work to make these kinds of football dreams come true.